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Swimming pigs, giant cat-eating spiders

Were you aware just how rare the month just past was? Did you know that it had five Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and that it won’t happen again for 823 years?

Are you, in retrospect, amazed? Astounded?

Were you among the countless people who learned of this mind-boggling celestial anomaly on Facebook, in an e-mail, or on a website, and accepted it as gospel?

If so, you were hoodwinked by yet another piece of Internet misinformation.

Months with five Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are commonplace and occur almost every year. Any perpetual calendar shows the March sequence will occur again in 2019, 2024, 2030, 2040, and every few years thereafter throughout eternity.

But hey, it was on the Internet, therefore it must be credible, right? Yeah, sure.

Maybe you also were amazed, astounded, etc., by the video, now with almost 8 million views on YouTube and featured on any number of network news (?) shows, of the swimming pig rescuing a baby goat. So cute. So adorable. So totally staged.

Then there’s the equally viral video of NASCAR champ Jeff Gordon purportedly taking a completely unsuspecting car salesman for a hair-raising test drive and scaring the, uhhhh, wits out of the poor fellow.

Great fun, eh? Barrel of laughs. But again, it was staged for a soft drink commercial (one shudders at the lawsuits that would have occurred had it been a real prank involving a real car salesman and if the guy had a heart attack and died).

Or maybe you were awed by the photo, circulated as gospel, of the humongous Angolan witch spider that ate dogs and cats! Took several bullets to kill it!! Yet another fake.

And you were certainly concerned about the widely disseminated e-mail warning of criminals marking homes and mailboxes with colored stickers so their accomplices can come back and steal homeowners’ dogs to be used for dogfighting?

As you were doubtless outraged by the inside scoop detailing a requirement in the health care legislation that would require U.S. residents to be implanted with microchips containing personal information?

And you, of course, shook your head sorrowfully at the insider revelation that gooby Jim Nabors, TV’s beloved Gomer Pyle, was married in 1970 to movie idol Rock Hudson.

And that video of the miraculous landing of an airplane after a wing completely snapped off during an acrobatic maneuver? Wow!!! (Another digital fake, part of a commercial for a clothing line.)

There’s no end to it. Every day brings more e-mails, more links to videos, more dire warnings of this or that virus that will fry your computer, or scam, or illicit activity, or subterfuge — all originating from an “expert” or  “law enforcement official” or other unimpeachable (but nameless) authority.

At the rate this stuff is proliferating, and given the ease with which any photograph or video can be faked and digitally manipulated, the Web is rapidly becoming little more than a vast repository of misinformation … and outright lies.


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